Peter Amedeo Giannini – Il banchiere degli ultimi


A natural disaster, a country with a destroyed economy, thousands of peasants, workers, and small shopkeepers on the brink waiting from banks for help that does not come. It could be today’s Italy, bent by a virus that has infected not only bodies but the entire social fabric, disintegrating it and dealing a crushing blow to the economic one. Instead, it is California In 1906, destroyed by the legendary San Francisco earthquake in which at5 a.m. on April 18 a devastating tremor disintegrates the city. Among the smoldering rubble is a man carrying a gigantic safe on an oxcart home;on that cart are two million dollars in gold, the reserves of the Bank of Italy he founded two years earlier in San Francisco. He does not do it out of greed, but because he realized that that money is needed to rebuild the city, not to turn those who managed to survive into more victims. Giannini Senses that the city must resume its economic activities as soon as possible or San Francisco, and with it all of California, will not stand a chance. The Other banks let it be known that they will reopen within six months. Butwithin six months there will be nothing left, he says. So he pulls down the battered gold Bank of Italy sign, goes down to the docks, and underneath he writes, “business as usual”: “We are open, as usual.” In six days he manages to restore the bank to a makeshift location, and to the general amazement he starts lending money just like that, without collateral. To The poor people who have lost everything he makes them sign a piece of paper, because to the only one who is giving them a chance to rebuild their lives, he is sure that they will return every last cent. Under the at first wry,then skeptical and finally astonished looks of the other bankers, Giannini’sabsurd plan turns out to be a unique feat in which ethics, foresight and entrepreneurship are welded together. It is a triumph, and North Beach,the Italian neighborhood, thanks to Bank of Italy loans, is the first to be rebuilt: 542 houses are pulled up in the first four months. When the other banks reopen, there are many who withdraw their savings to bring them to the bank of “that gentleman Giannini.” In founding the Bank of Italy which later became Bank of America, the largest bank in the world, he gives credit to the smallest, the last, the immigrants precisely, often illiterate, to all those who had never entered the bank and whom no bank would let in. No big shareholders but lots of small entrepreneurs. His being avisionary against the tide caused other visionaries to turn to him over time. Troubled unknown emeriti who saw in him a chance to realize their dreams: Walt Disney, Frank Capra… To Giannini’s financing we owe some of the masterpieces of cinema. Throughout his life Giannini worked beyond the limits imposed by the logic of profit with the ambition to meet the needs of the weakest. And his life shows us how, even without placing money at the top of the scale of values, one can achieve significant profits and create well-being for oneself and others. To tell his story is to recount a legendary but unjustly little-known character, bound to the concreteness of things and at the same time irresistibly projected in opening glimpses of the future, in foreshadowing radical and countercultural innovations to be pursued with perseverance and courage

Altro da È FICTION